The Six Stages of Illustration: Leading Clients Through Your Art | Tom Froese | Skillshare

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The Six Stages of Illustration: Leading Clients Through Your Art

teacher avatar Tom Froese, Illustrator and Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      About This Class


    • 3.

      The Process


    • 4.

      The Tools


    • 5.

      The Foundation (Know Your Art)


    • 6.

      Stage 1: Onboarding


    • 7.

      Stage 2: Understanding


    • 8.

      Stage 3: Ideation


    • 9.

      Stage 4: Realization


    • 10.

      Stage 5: Delivery


    • 11.

      Stage 6: Closing


    • 12.

      Project: Know Your Art


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About This Class

It’s one thing to be able to make great art, but it’s a whole other thing to be able to do this on behalf of other people. The celebrated illustrator Christoph Niemann once said, “Relying on craft and routine is a lot less sexy than being an artistic genius. But it is an excellent strategy for not going insane.” This class aims give you such a strategy!

If you're looking for more strategies for illustrating commercially, for paying clients, this class is for you. Join award-winning Illustrator and Top Teacher Tom Froese as he goes through every stage of his illustration process when working for clients. 

What will you learn?

By taking this class, you'll learn:

  • The key stages of the illustration process, from start to finish
  • What (and what not) to focus on at each step along the way
  • How to start an illustration project and set it up for success
  • How to handle tricky client feedback
  • Best practices for keeping projects on track and getting paid

What will you get?

You'll also have exclusive access to Tom's proprietary tools, including:

  • The 6S Filing System
  • A Deck Template to customize and use as your own
  • A printable poster of Tom's 6S Illustration Process

Who is this class for

This class is for anyone working as an illustrator now, or planning on it, who wants to learn more about the steps and stages of the professional illustration process. This is not so much a creative class, and it's business class—it's a strategy class. It's all about how to structure your own creative process so that you can lead clients through it with more confidence!

What skills, experience, or tools you need to take this class?

No special skills or experience are required to take this class, although it will be most relevant to illustrators who have some experience working professionally and would like to be more strategic in their practice. No special tools are required either. The device you are viewing this class on right now is all you'll need. In the class project, you are welcome to do it on your device, or by hand, in a sketchbook or note pad.

Tools: Billing Apps

Tools: Cloud Sharing 

  • Google Drive (Offers free and paid plans)
  • iCloud (Built into macOS/iOS with free and paid plans)
  • Dropbox (Offers free and paid plans)
  • WeTransfer (Offers free and paid plans)

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Meet Your Teacher

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Tom Froese

Illustrator and Designer

Top Teacher

Tom Froese is an award winning illustrator, teacher, and speaker. He loves making images that make people happy. In his work, you will experience a flurry of joyful colours, spontaneous textures, and quirky shapes. Freelancing since 2013, Tom has worked for brands and businesses all over the world. Esteemed clients include Yahoo!, Airbnb, GQ France, and Abrams Publishing. His creative and diverse body of work includes maps, murals, picture books, packaging, editorial, and advertising. Tom graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design with a B.Des (honours) in 2009.

As a teacher, Tom loves to inspire fellow creatives to become better at what they do. He is dedicated to the Skillshare community, where he has taught tens of thousands of students his unique approache... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Trailer: This is probably the most boring class I'll ever teach, but it's also the most important topic for any illustrator who wants to make a living making their art. I'm talking about the process of illustrating for clients. It's one thing to be able to make great art, but it's a whole other thing to be able to do this on behalf of other people. One of my heroes, Christoph Niemann once said, "Relying on craft and routine is a lot less sexy than being an artistic genius. But it's an excellent strategy for not going insane." This class is my attempt to give you such a strategy. My name is Tom Froese, and I'm an illustrator and top teacher here on Skillshare, where I've helped over a 100,000 students unlock the world of commercial illustration. While everyone comes with their own way of illustrating, be that with paint or pixels, there are some common stages we almost go through especially when working commercially for paying clients. If you're working as an illustrator now or planning on it, this class identifies and systematizes these stages so you can flow through them more skillfully with your clients. If you want to make work you love or making your clients happy, I made this class for you. If you want to learn how to set each job up for success and see them through right to the end, right up to the point where you get paid, stick around because I made this class for you. Based on my almost two decades of experience working for hundreds of clients around the world, including Yahoo, Airbnb, and GQ France, this class gives you a system, an organized framework for getting your job done and keeping it on track. As part of the system, you'll not only learn how to blast through the challenges of being creative on-demand, you'll also have access to exclusive resources that will get you up and running right away, including my proprietary filing system and presentation deck template, and even an illustrated map of the process. As illustrators, we don't just make pretty pictures, we lead our clients through the wilderness of our creativity. It's only by knowing our own way through this wilderness that we can lead others through it safely and confidently to the other side. This class is the combination of years of wandering the wilderness, trying to answer the question, how can I better lead others through my own illustration process? Now, I'm excited to finally share what I've found with you. I'll see you in class. [MUSIC] 2. About This Class: [MUSIC] This class is for anyone who wants to learn more about how to illustrate for paying clients. You might be a seasoned illustrator looking for ways at making your process more efficient, or you might be a beginner looking to learn about how the whole business of commercial illustration works. Well, there are all kinds of classes and books about the illustration industry and how to get started in the business of commercial art. There are surprisingly few resources that give artists a clear way to step their clients through their own creative process. There are almost none that do so with a focus on maximizing your success rate on getting your best work approved with as few hiccups along the way. I want to change that. A lot of the insights I share in this class are actually not from working as a freelance illustrator, but from being a designer and art director at both smaller and larger advertising agencies. Working as part of entire teams, I was able to see how professional creative projects are lead. I was also thrust into working with clients who were much larger than I would have been able to get on my own at the time as a freelancer. I paid special attention to how creative problems were framed in the brief, how ideas were developed and presented, and how client feedback was handled, and in some cases, mishandled. I believe that bringing these insights into my practice as a freelance illustrator has made me more successful. Very few illustrators get a chance to start off as a designer working for larger clients like this, so I'm excited to share what I've learned with you now. Here's how this class works. First, we'll go through some basic concepts and tools that are fundamental to the process I use and teach. Next, we'll go through each of the six stages of the illustration process including on-boarding, understanding, ideation, realization, delivery, and closing. At the end of the class, I'll send you off on a guided reflection exercise that will help you better understand the foundation of what you do, what you want to do and the value you provide to your clients as an illustrator. Now, just to be clear, this is not a business class in the proper sense. We won't be going in-depth on topics like pricing or project management. This is more of a strategy class. It's about how to structure your own creative process so that you can lead clients through it with more clarity and confidence. This class was founded on the belief that we do more than just make art for our clients. To truly do our job, we have to proactively lead our clients through the process of getting there. There is no such thing as a bad client. There is such thing as a poorly guided creative process. Most conflict we have with our clients comes from a failure on our part to lead them through what we do. Creativity is a wilderness and it's our job to lead our clients through it. This class is a map through that wilderness. Grab a coffee, a notebook and a pencil, and settle in for a deep dive, because this one's going to be a doozy. Let's go. [MUSIC] 3. The Process: When you set out on a journey, you need a map. A map shows you the lay of the land and a way through it. It doesn't guarantee you'll make it through, nor does it tell you exactly what adventures you'll have along the way, but it certainly makes the journey more predictable. The process of illustrating for clients is always different. Different clients, different problems to solve, different times in your life, but the stages and steps you go through are always the same. It's like traveling through the same state, going through the same cities, seeing the same sights, taking the same road, but every time you go it's different. Different people, different weather, different seasons, and perhaps each trip has a different purpose. But let's circle back to that word predictable. That is not a word we'd like to associate with what we do as creatives, but it's exactly what we need in order to be professionally creative. Of course, we don't want to make predictable work, and the good news is that we don't have to, and I strongly recommend you try not to. The paradox of professional creativity is that in order to reliably produce unpredictable results, we need to rely on a highly predictable process. It's this process that I'd like to show you now. I call it the 6S process because it has six stages. 6S also sounds a lot like success, and that's a great dad joke right there, hilarious joke. Let's take a look at the overall stages of the 6S process. I've identified these overall stages and organized their respective steps based on many years in this business. Although everyone has their own unique take on these steps, I believe they're all common to most illustrators and to some extent, designers as well, and they are as follows: onboarding, understanding, ideation, realization, delivery, and closing. Let's look at each stage now just at the high level. The first stage is onboarding. Onboarding is the process of taking on a new client and determining the overall nature of the project. Onboarding starts when the client first reaches out with an inquiry and ends when you officially take each other on and kick off the project. Key steps in this stage include the brief, the quote, and the kickoff, along with dealing with any contracts or other paperwork necessary to establish the relationship. The next stage is understanding. Understanding is a stage where you as the illustrator work to understand as much as you can and need to about the illustration subject. The first part of the stage is research where you gain more of a mental grasp of your subject and the needs of the project. The second part is studies, where you use drawing from references to gain more of a visual grasp of the subject. The next stage is ideation. Ideation is a stage where we actually start to come up with ideas or solutions to the creative problem as defined in the brief. Ideation starts with rough sketches where you're essentially mining for ideas, it then moves into refined sketches where you select your best idea and further improve on them. The ideation stage is the first point in the process where you will present your work to the client. Your client will have the chance to view the sketches, make selections where necessary, offer feedback, and request changes. The ideation stage ends when the client has approved the sketch or sketches for you to take into the finished illustration. The next stage is realization. The realization stage is the second point in the process where you present your work to the client. This time the client has a chance to view the finished illustration, offer some feedback, and request minor changes if necessary. The realization stage ends when the client has approved the finished artwork for you to start preparing for final delivery. At this stage, the client sees the finished artwork but does not receive any files, that's what the next step is for. The next stage is delivery. Delivery is a stage where you prepare the artwork files for final use and send them off to the client. Here you spend some time making sure the artwork is error free and easy to use and that all the right layers are included if requested. Finally, you send the file off to the client. The last stage is closing. Closing is a stage where you send the final invoice to the client and get paid. At this stage, you can also take the chance to archive your project folder for safekeeping. Well, nothing in the stage is essential for doing your job as an illustrator, it's important for making sure you get paid, and it's also a worthwhile ritual to mark the end of a job well done. Now for all that talk about maps, I wanted to give you an actual map of the process. I've included this as a downloadable and printable PDF in the class projects and resources page. For those interested the map is also available for purchase as a print, to learn more visit Now I just one note before we move on, the way I've named these stages are not industry standard terms. They're just helpful categories that have become my own personal nomenclature. When speaking with your clients, especially art directors and designers in the creative industry, there'll be more familiar with terms like brief, kickoff sketches or roughs, and finals or finished art, and sometimes they'll call it colored artwork. I say this so that you don't feel the need to talk about the realization stage with your client who may be unfamiliar with my made-up terminology. 4. The Tools: [MUSIC] You don't need much to be an illustrator. Aside from rent and our digital equipment or physical media, there doesn't need to be much overhead. In this class, we're going to assume that you know what tools you need in order to make your art. The tools we'll talk about here are instead directly related to the 6s process outlined in the class. Though you may find you need more than just these tools. These are what I consider the bare bones essentials. The tools I'll talk about in this video include the deck, the filing system, billing software, and Cloud file sharing. Now let's go through each and a bit of detail. The first tool is the filing system. A filing system is how we structure our files and folders on our hard drives. This may seem a strange thing to include as a tool in this class. But as illustrators, we accumulate quite a lot of files throughout the life of a project, and they have to go somewhere. A filing system helps us stay organized by helping us know how to name and store different types of files such as templates, contracts, reference images, and of course our sketches and artwork files. The most important files you'll want to keep track of are those you'll be producing and presenting for your client. That includes sketches and final artwork. At very least, you should have a system for naming your work files and keeping track of the versions or revisions you send to your client. You may have a filing system that works well for you already. If so great. I don't want to tell you I have a better filing system than you. However, if you're like me when I was starting out wondering how a professional organizes their files, I'm giving you my own filing system to start with. You're free to use it and build on it however you wish. It will be available to you as a downloadable zip file in the class projects and resources section of this class. My filing system is just a premade set of nested folders mostly named and organized by the steps in my process. It also includes an InDesign template for presenting sketches and final illustrations. It's super helpful having an organized filing system like this while you're working on a project, it's even more useful when you have to find an old file for some reason, having all your files organized in the exact same way every time makes it far easier to find old files years into the future. The next tool is the Deck. When professionals share their creative work to their clients, they present it in a deck. A deck is basically a slideshow format for presenting our sketches and finished art to our clients. In my process, the deck is the single most important tool when it comes to including the client in your creative process. A deck frames my work in a professional light. It gives me an opportunity to explain the work and it helps me keep track of revisions. I know that many illustrators prefer to send their work as loose email attachments to their clients. But I don't think this is a very good idea. Whether I'm sharing sketches or a finished illustration, I want my client to perceive the work as important and requiring their full attention because it is and it does. On the contrary, if I were to send my ideas as loose attachments, my client may have the impression that I drew them up real quick on a napkin or something. As a result, they may spend less time with and pay less attention to the work. We'll get a chance to look more closely at the deck starting in Stage 3, ideation. I've also included a simple desk template in the class projects and resources section, which you are free to use and adapt to your own needs. The next tool is billing software. Billing software is an app or a service that allows you to create, send and track quotes and invoices. I've included billing software as a key tool because quotes and invoices bookend the entire process. While this class is not about how to price your work, I will talk about how to use billing software to communicate scope and cost at the beginning and make sure you get paid at the end of the project. Personally, I've been using Harvest as my billing app and it seems to do the job just fine. But really any billing app or software today will do. The next tool is Cloud sharing. Cloud Sharing is used to share files as links rather than sending the actual files by email, uses simple piece of tech and immediately elevate yourself above many other illustrators. As you know, I don't recommend sending your work as loose email attachments, but rather presenting it in a deck. But that also means avoiding sending your decks themselves as email attachments. Instead, upload your presentation and your final illustration files to a Cloud file-sharing service like Dropbox or WeTransfer. Then just send your client the download link. For both billing software and Cloud sharing, I've included some suggestions in the class projects and resources section. But you can really go with any service you want as long as it provides the functions outlined in this class. Now that you're familiar with these tools, you'll be able to follow along more easily when I mentioned them throughout the class. [MUSIC] 5. The Foundation (Know Your Art): Managing the commercial illustration process means guiding your clients confidently from one step to the next as you do your thing. That thing you do, this is your art. In order to guide your clients through your art, you need to know what that art is. To me, knowing your art means to know what you do, how you do it and it also means things like knowing why you want to make it and for whom. Well, this could be the subject of an entire class. I wanted to quickly touch on this since it's foundational to everything else you'll do in your client work. The foundation of knowing your art falls under what I call the 3V's, your virtuosity, your vision and your value. Let's go through each. Virtuosity is defined as a great skill in an artistic pursuit. Absolutely, as illustrators, we should become masters at what we do. That doesn't mean being master artists in the old-fashioned academic sense. I mean, whatever it is that you do, you should be uniquely very good at it. This means knowing what you do, what are you a master of, and knowing how you do it in a reliable way. What is it that you do well? Or what do you aspire to do well? What is your unique thing? What is the style or vision or a perspective that you want others to recognize and hire you for? What are the specific tools and techniques that you use in order to make what you make? Which ones are so important to your art that without them everything else falls apart? These questions are important because they help you know what the boundaries of your work are. By knowing your virtuosity, you know exactly how to do what you've been hired for. You also know better how to identify clients who may not be coming to you for these strengths, which can help you avoid problematic jobs before they even begin. On a more positive note, knowing your virtuosity helps you know what you have to work with. These are the tools and constraints that you can use to solve your clients' problems. These are what make you unique and hopefully what others are expecting from you. Now let's talk about your vision. As a creative entrepreneur, you are a business. All businesses have vision statements. Having a vision statement can seem corny, but it's a foundational element to your identity and sense of purpose as an illustrator. To me, to know your vision means to know what you want. This encompasses everything about what you do as an illustrator. Why are you an illustrator? What do you want to do with it? Who do you want to illustrate for? What kind of illustration do you want to do? What influence do you want to have on your audience? Who do you imagine your audience might be? When you know your vision, you can make better decisions about which kinds of projects you'll pursue and take on. It makes it easier for you to market yourself when you know what kind of work you want to do and for whom you can focus more on making that kind of work and appealing to those kinds of clients. Your vision should be strong, but that doesn't mean it should be static. As a human, you are evolving all the time. Your idea of what is worthy of pursuit will change as you learn and grow. To have a strong vision simply means that in this moment, you know what you want or what you want more than other things. Regularly going through the questions I outlined here will help you build a strong and dynamic vision for yourself as a professional illustrator. The last V here is your value. When I talk about knowing your value, I mean the value you bring to your clients. What is unique about you that they can't get from another illustrator? So much of your value is derived from the more technical and aesthetic aspects of your virtuosity. But much of it is also dependent on your soft skills. Who are you? What do you like to work with? What is your perspective? What kind of thinking your problem-solving do you bring to the table? In other words, what makes you valuable as part of your client's team? Being easy to work with might be valuable, but maybe being confident and willing to offer a strong opinion, even when it's not easy to bring up is valuable to your clients. Maybe you love working on short deadlines and working through the night. Maybe you're super secretive and mysterious, but always emerge on time with a surprising and delightful solution. The value you want to bring to your clients is largely based on who you are and what you see as your unique strengths. Each of us is our own bundle of hard and soft skills. And this is better for some projects and clients and not so great for others. When considering what value you bring, you can ask, what are your soft skills? Aside from your art, what do people appreciate about working with you? What is your unique experience or expertise outside of the art world that makes you a uniquely valuable illustrator. I've called this video the foundation because to know your art is truly at the foundation of everything else I teach in this class. It's so important, I lament not being able to teach this more fully and not being able to teach it first before you take this class. But as I wrote this class, it became more and more apparent to me that truly setting up a project for success and keeping it on track really starts with this foundation. At the end of this class for the project, I'll send you off on a series of guided questions that will help you better know your art. 6. Stage 1: Onboarding: Onboarding is the process of first taking on a new client and determining the purpose in details of what you'll be working on. That means defining the visual problem that you're being hired to solve with your art. Onboarding starts when the client first reaches out with an inquiry and ends when you officially take each other on and kick off the project. The goal of this stage is to win the project and set it up for the best possible result. The steps of this stage include the first contact, the brief, the quote, and the kick-off. By the end of this stage, you should have a project brief an accepted quote, an agreement, or contract of some kind, I usually just work this into my quote and a schedule which outlines key dates for review and final delivery. Now let's go through each step of the process. The first step is client inquiry. Every project starts when a potential client reaches out to you usually by email to see if you're available and interested in a job. Inquiries can be very short and to the point, and others can be a bit more convoluted but they usually involve some high-level description of the job and asking whether you're interested in and available for the job. You'll often be asked to give a rate or a ballpark quote as well, but we'll deal with this separately. Client inquiries can come in many different forms but a very typical one might look like this. I'm looking at an email that's coming from a fictional client for a fictional magazine. Her name is Ashley and she writes, "Hello Tom, I'm the Art Director at Crypto Today magazine and I have a job you might be interested in. We need one full page and four spots for an article called The Cult of Crypto which explores the religious undertones of crypto culture. It's due near the end of the month. We have a budget of $1500. Are you able to take this on?" In this example, the client inquiry is short and sweet. The client gives a simple description of the job, what is for, and even includes a deadline and a budget. This is a decent start but I do need to know more before saying yes to the job. Before anything else, I ask myself whether I think the project is interesting. If I'm not interested and I'm not starving for work, I might pass. What might make a project interesting to me? Here are a few questions I ask myself, is the assignment in any way interesting to me? For instance, do I like the subject? Or is the format in this example, editorial illustration, something I want to do more of? Do I want to work with this client? Are they aligned with my values or a good name to have on my CV? Another question I might ask is, do I have time to take the project on, or will it compromise my current commitments and priorities? Another question I might ask is, is the budget enticing or at least fair? And lastly, will the project create new opportunities? Hopefully, I can find something that interests me personally about the project. Of course, if the project has an enticing budget, that alone might be more important than personal interests. I could be interested in almost anything if the money's good. That being said, I mostly make sure I think the project is actually interesting because that's what will make it a lot easier for me to get into the project. But money also matters. I've let many super interesting jobs go because the budget was too low. Just because a company seems cool or I really believe in the project, it doesn't mean I'll take a hit on the fee. I might but I have my limits. Of course, regardless of how interesting or well-paying the job is, I'll need a certain minimum of time to be able to do it. Many jobs get filtered out at this stage because the timeline is too aggressive especially given the budget. This example is nice because we got a budget. But sometimes you'll not be given a budget but be asked to provide a quote. This is especially true for ad agencies and many known editorial clients. Whether you get a budget or not, at this point where the client first reaches out, you're essentially being asked if you're available and interested. Usually, the answer should be a resounding, "It depends." Of course, don't say it like that. You can show initial interest and professionalism by saying, "This looks interesting to me but I'd like to know a bit more to make sure I can take it on." At this point, you've initiated the briefing process which is the next step. Now throughout this class, I'll be offering you some of my most important advice. Advice is just that, you can do whatever you want but these are key principles that I abide by in my own practice. They're important enough that I need to call them rules. Here's the first one. Rule. Never commit to unknowns. When you get a brief, you're entitled to find out as much as you can about the job before saying yes to it and before sending a quote. Be sure to have a proper brief and an accepted quote to learn as much as you can and make sure you know exactly what you're getting into. The next step is the brief. Briefing is the process of being fully informed and prepared for the job ahead. When you're interested and want to know more about a project, you can move into the briefing stage. This is when you find out what the client needs and how you fit into the picture. In design and illustration, a creative brief outlines the who, what, why, where, and when of a project. It's a high-level definition of what the creative problem is and what the deliverables are around it. A brief should tell you everything you need to know about price, schedule, and everything else you need to get started on the creative work. Sometimes a brief comes from the client in a single document or on a single email but more often, a brief is a back-and-forth conversation until what you're being asked to do exactly and why becomes clear. As the leader of your creative process, this is where you get a chance to start building up your client's trust. By asking them about the specifics of their request, it shows that you pay attention to details. When you ask questions in this way, your client gets a chance to really think about what they want and need, and they'll likely appreciate this added value. It'll be up to you to make sure that you have everything you need to know about what you're being asked to do, and by extension what you're being asked to price in a quote. There's almost always something you don't know for sure, something that you would like to know, some vital bit of information that hasn't been given to you yet. The brief is your opportunity to ask that. In our example for our fictional crypto magazine client, I'll show you how I would respond and the questions I would ask. In my response to Ashley, I say, "Thanks for your email. This looks super interesting. I just have a few questions to make sure I know if I can take it on. I'm happy to hop on a call if that's easier for you. " The first question I ask is," What is the full page in spots about?, What are they meant to call out specifically?" It Always helps to know at a high level from my art director or client what their take on what it's about is. Another question I asked is, "Can you please send me the article or headline?" Very often an editorial client will send you the article or they'll give you some synopsis of the article but if they don't, you should ask. "Do you have specific art direction for the piece?" The approach they want to take conceptually, it never hurts to ask this question either. Another very important question to ask is, what are the dimensions of each illustration? I never start a project or I don't even quote on a project unless I know the specific sizes of the illustrations I'm supposed to be delivering. One thing with editorial illustration is your illustrations are often sitting in the same layout as lettering and headlines and stuff like that. I ask, will the full-page need to accommodate lettering or headlines? Especially with the full page, if it's occupying the whole page, maybe they want to have some wording in there as well. You need to ask these things ahead of time so you can make sure the illustration can accommodate that. Another question to ask here would be, will the spots be rectangular or float in space? A lot of the time, spot illustrations just float in space and they don't have like a hard square edge. There's more like white space behind them, but sometimes you just want to make sure you clarify with the art director whether those spot illustrations will fill in right to the borders of the rectangle space that they fit in. Finally, and this is actually a super important question that you should ask with every client is, are you able to cite examples of other work that made you think of me? This is an important question to ask, especially if you're uncertain about what they might be expecting from you in terms of style. Then I just close off the email and say, "Once I have more clarity on this, I can confirm my availability." For more on what to ask in a brief, I've included a series of questions to ask at the time of briefing, including things that you absolutely must know before saying yes to a job in the projects and resources section of the class. By the end of the briefing stage, you should have clear answers to these questions ideally somewhere in writing. I want to underscore just how important it is to get a thorough brief down at this stage and not to be too casual about it. One of the biggest pain points when illustrating for clients is when it seems that the client keeps changing things as you go. Maybe the goalpost keeps changing in sketches or you're almost finished the final artwork and the client changes the dimensions. This has happened to me many times. In order to know what to aim for in your work, you need to lock in a target. The brief is where you and the client both agree on this target. In the game of bowling, you have to knock over several pins by rolling a heavy ball at them. Just as there are multiple pins to knock over, there are often multiple objectives for you to metaphorically hit in a job. Could you imagine if the pins kept moving around at the end of the lane while you aimed your shot? Those pins must stay put in order for you to fairly have a shot at knocking them over. The next step here is the quote and contract. Once you have a brief in place and know more certainly what you're being asked to do and that you want to do it, you can move into the quoting stage. A quote is an estimate of how much your product or service will cost. Quoting may not seem necessary if you're given a budget from your client, but it's still worth setting one up and having the client accept it because this gives you a chance to put the price in writing. More importantly, it gives you a chance to declare what is included for this price, and by extension, what is not included. In other words, along with the brief, a quote helps you define the project scope. Returning to the bowling analogy, while the brief is like the pins that you set up as your objective, the quote sets up the guardrails that keep the ball out of the gutter. Now just a note about pricing. Along with the topic of quotes comes the whole can of worms of how do you price your work? In this class, we're taking a higher-level view of how to step through a creative project and keep it on track, so we'll only really be scratching the surface on the topic of pricing. Here, I'd like to focus more on how quoting fits into the overall project flow. There are resources available for pricing your work, and I'll leave links in the class projects and resources section to get you started. By talking about the quote itself, a quote should always be specific. For example, rather than saying an illustration of a certain size will cost X amount, you should elaborate. How fast does the client want it? How much detail will go into it? How will it be used? How many sketches does the client hope to see at first? What if the client wants the same illustration but in two color options? While you can't account for every possibility, you can write in exactly what would be included in one specific possibility. Really a quote is just a more precise restatement of the brief. It probably helps to see a quote rather than just to hear me talk about it so I'm going to just open one of my quotes here, and I made this in Harvest, but let's just take a look at some of the specifics. Just looking at my quote here, I have all the standard stuff that any quote's going to have. It's going to have you and your address, contact information. It's going to have who the quote is for, so your client right at the top. It has a subject and, in this case, it's full-page and spots. Then of course I have a little section here called Quote ID, and for you, it might just be like a number one, and a number two, number three. I have a fancier naming scheme for that. Then I have the issue date. Really, this top part is almost just like an email or a letterhead and then below is where we really get into the me of a quote, and that's where you start listing exactly what you're providing and for how much. Basically, we have a description reiterating what me and the art director talked over in the briefing stage and just putting it here in writing. Editorial illustration, I describe what it's for and the deliverables I talk about not just what I'm making but what I'm doing along the way. That includes 2-3 sketches or concepts per illustration. Then of course I'm delivering one full-page illustration and then I just have the dimensions that we agreed on, and then four spot illustrations, and I also make a mention of what the file format and resolution will be, just so it's clear. I've had cases where I've supplied Photoshop files because that's what I work in and people were expecting Vector, and you want to make sure you address that right at the top here and not way later once you've made the artwork. Then also pretty important is just having some deadlines, even if they're loose deadlines. I just say sketches are due end of day February 11th, finals are due end of day February 18th in this case. Then of course, the amount and the taxes, all that standard stuff. Now in the description, I'm careful to say, "See terms and conditions for revisions and fee schedules." We're going to get into this in a little bit, but down here at the bottom of the quote, I have this whole section here where I outline the details basically of how this works. What is a revision? How many do you get? Stuff like that. We're going to talk about that in a bit, but I'm sure to include this in my quotes. For me, the quote is not just a price list or a number but a contract. A quote outlines what you will provide and for how much. It also states what's included along the way, including how many unique concepts you'll provide for each illustration, how many rounds of revisions you allow at the sketch and final stages and what file format you'll deliver in the end. In my quote, I also outline the timing, if possible, and I definitely include a fee schedule and whether or not there's a kill fee, and yes, you should definitely include a kill fee. Another thing I build into my quotes is a description of usages and a declaration of copyright. Unless the client specifically asks and you've negotiated a higher fee, you should always maintain copyright on your work. I didn't make this stuff up. Most of what I learned about pricing and what to include in my quote and how to word my terms and agreements section, I learned in the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook. This is a super handy guide for anyone who wants to know their way around the business of illustrating or design. It's got just pages and pages of information about this. The nice thing about this guide is that it has these specific tables where it talks about very specific scenarios like you're creating this kind of illustration for this kind of client, and it's going to cost within this range of prices. Another cool thing about this guide is it doesn't just have those price lists. It also has this whole section at the back with these example forms and agreements and contracts and stuff like that. A lot of the wording that I've chosen to include in my terms and conditions, I've taken from these examples. It's called the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook to Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. It's a mouthful, some people just call it The GAG Guide, but yeah, super helpful. I highly recommend you pick one of these up. I used to have a separate contract for my client to sign but now I just included it in the terms and conditions section of my quote. To be honest, I'm sure there's a more official way of doing this but for my purposes it works. This is not legal advice, I encourage you to do your own research to see what works best for you. For more information on quoting and some examples, please check out the links in the projects and resources page as always. Now just one more note about quotes before we move onto the next step, just like the brief, the quote should be seen as a conversation. If the client did not provide a budget and ask for a quote, ask for what you want. If the client bites, then great. If not, then come back and ask if they had a budget that would work better for them. Negotiating a price doesn't mean you have to provide the same value for less cost, you can negotiate by removing features or adjusting expectations in the timeline or delivery. You may have heard the adage, out of good, fast or cheap, you can only pick two, you can't have all three. Hopefully, you'll never leave good up for negotiation but you can sometimes wiggle around how fast and for how much. The quoting stage ends when the client accepts your quote. The way I go about getting an approval on my quote is based on how my billing app works. In Harvest, after setting up my quote, I send it off to the client within the app. The client receives an email with a link to the quote as a webpage. On this page is a big old button that says, Accept Quote. When I send the quote, I always write a little personal note saying something like, "If the quote looks good to you please be sure to hit "Accept" on the web quote. In the terms and conditions section of my quotes, I include a little bit that says, "By accepting this quote, you agree to the following," and that's how I know that the client has accepted my quote. The client should have a way to accept the quote in a way that's tantamount to signing by hand. By having them hit the Accept button, this document's proof that they agree to the terms and conditions of the quote. If you prefer a hand signature, that's actually not a bad idea. Again, none of this is legal advice, I'm just showing you what I do in my own practice. Finally, the last stage here is kickoff. Once you've got a brief and an accepted quote, the job is pretty much yours. You can just jump into the actual work at this point, but I think it's nice to just check in one last time before going forward to make sure the job feels like a real thing, that's what I call kickoff. Kickoff can be as simple as a note to say thanks and you're excited to work with them. It's also a chance just to firm up the project timeline, setting more concrete dates for specific deliverables or touchpoints. In the process, touchpoints include the times my client will see the sketches, the finished art, and then finally the finished artwork files. The work I'm sharing with the client is always a completed deliverable. When we work at the timeline, I avoid language like check-ins because I don't think it's creatively productive to show mid process work. This could really throw off the process since illustration work in progress can look alarmingly bad even to ourselves as we're making it. If the client asks for a check-in, make that check-in the first time they'll see a sketch from you. We'll get more into this in the ideation stage. But for now my main point is, you want to have a schedule that's very simple and elegant, so you have fewer dates to plan for and fewer chances to lose track of feedback. At kickoff, first schedule in these three overarching touchpoints : first look at sketches, first look at finished art, and final file delivery. I like to say first look because there may be second and third looks later, but scheduling every possibility gets complicated. Next, be sure to give enough time between each of these touchpoints for the client to thoughtfully give feedback and for you to carefully implement changes in your own revisions. Usually that means at least one day turnaround for client feedback and another 1-2 days for you to turn around revisions. I also like to schedule at least 1-2 days depending on complexity of the project after final approval to clean up the files before delivering them to the client. Just a tip, feedback and revisions are easy to lose track of if not managed properly. You should avoid having feedback come in piecemeal or coming from multiple people over multiple emails or calls. To avoid confusion and overwhelm, I always require feedback to come through one contact and to be gathered in a single organized document. I communicate this in the terms and conditions of the quote. A great way to make a project feel real is by creating a project folder. Earlier, I introduced you to my six S filing system and now it's time to start putting it to use. The filing system is just the structure of nested folders named and ordered by the stages and steps of this process. I always have one blank or dummy filing system on my hard drive ready to duplicate and give a new name with each project. Let's just say I've kicked off this job for this fictional magazine, Crypto Today. I would name my folder in this way. Here I have just my dummy folder and it's got a generic name. The next thing I want to do is just duplicate that, I always want to keep my dummy folder alone just so it's always available, but I want to duplicate it and then start giving it a unique name. I give my projects these gobbledygook names, but there is a little bit of reason to this. The first four letters is the client name so in this case it's Crypto Today, and I'll just put CRYP as the little shorthand for that. Then the date would be February 2022, and that gives it a nice clear way of identifying when I made this project. Then I give it a little serial number, just a single digit, just in case Crypto Today comes back to me in the same month for another separate project. I would just create a folder with the exact same code but just increment that serial number to two. Of course, I put the client name here, Crypto Today, and we'll just say illustrations. The 11 character gobbledygook is the project code and then I follow it with a basic description of the project. For more info on how I devise project codes and name my folders, I've included some notes with the filing system, Zip File, included in the class resources page. 7. Stage 2: Understanding: [MUSIC] Now that you've onboarded your client and officially kicked off the project, it's over to you illustrator. The moment a project kicks off can be intimidating for newer illustrators. Since the big question is, what do you do next? Perhaps the most natural thing to do might be picking up a pencil or even jumping straight into Procreate or Illustrator and start working out ideas. But before you even think about drawing or illustrating anything, you need to first lay down a foundation of understanding. That's what the understanding stage is all about. Understanding is the stage of learning as much as you can about the project in order for you to properly do your job. This process includes some basic research and gathering of reference images, however, much you need to properly understand your subject. In the 6S process, this stage also includes studies, which means drawing from your reference images. Anyone who's taken my other classes will know this as observation mode or O mode sketching. The goal of the understanding stage is to know as much as you need in order to thoughtfully illustrate your subject. This understanding is on both the intellectual and visual levels. This stage starts with some basic primary research and then moves into visual studies, or what I sometimes call O mode sketching. By the end of the stage, you'll have gathered notes and documentation from your primary research, as well as some reference images. Of course, you'll also have O mode sketches, based on your reference images. In the understanding stage, the first step is research. Research for illustrators is pretty basic. We're not talking about academic research, but just getting to a place where you understand what you're supposed to illustrate about. To demonstrate the research part of this stage, let's just say we're working on an illustration for an editorial client. In a typical editorial illustration project, research will really start with the article draft from the art director. The article often comes as a text document with the title and main body of the text, although it may be in draft form, meaning the title and the exact wording of the content may change before publication. However, it should be enough for you to glean ideas from. In this example, your first step should be to read and understand the text, and also to find something interesting about it. Not all editorial articles are exactly riveting. When I get an article though, I read through it a couple of times, with each pass having a different focus. The first reading is just to get to know the article, so I read it with no other goal than to just get through it. The second reading is to figure out what the article is really about. This time I have a pencil or pen in hand and underline whatever stands out to me as interesting, especially as anything that gives me a strong visual cue. At this point, I may realize I actually don't know as much as I thought about the subject, so I might go and do some additional research. For instance, if the article is about crypto investing, I might have to do some additional research to know what terms like bullish or toddlers mean. The good thing is you don't have to be an expert on something to be able to illustrate it. In fact, when you read something as a total outsider, the process of learning about it will make you better at illustrating it. You can put yourself in the shoes of the average reader and therefore know what might be the most understandable way of communicating about it. After understanding the text and pulling out some key ideas, the next step will be to start searching for reference images. The purpose of this step is to build up a visual library of your subject. Here, you're just searching for images on the web and saving them to a folder on your computer. In the above example, the article is about crypto investing. This is a very abstract topic, so you'll need some kind of visual entry point. What are the symbols and visuals that might be meaningful within this subject? Specifically, what does crypto look like? Since crypto has no actual physical form, you're going to see a lot of visuals that merge currency and digital or electronic tropes. That means a lot of gold coins with circuit motifs. What other visuals exists within this topic or the culture surrounding it? Who are the people in this space and what do they look like? What are the metaphors you can draw on like bullish? Whatever visuals you think you might need to reference, look it up and save it in your reference image folder. Also be on the lookout for new possible visuals as you go along. That's another benefit of doing this image research step. Now, when you're looking for reference images, you're not looking for a solution to your illustration problem. You're probably not going to find a full concept ready to go in your search. Instead you're just looking for reference images, and in a moment, we'll get more into what you'll do with them. To guide this image research, I find it helps to write down a list of keywords first and then use this as the basis of my primary research. I can just go through these words one by one. Once I've found images for each keyword, I can move onto the next step. Now, just a friendly warning. The Internet is full of cliches and highly unimaginative visualizations for every topic. Looking at crypto, you'll quickly find that people have not been able to imagine further than coins with various cryptocurrency symbols on them surrounded with digital motifs. While you may need to include something like this in order for your art to have meaning to the average reader, your job is to push for something that is somehow extra. How can you push the cliches into something more clever or give them more personality? Or how can you spin the old ideas in a new way? What new connections can you create between the specific ideas in the article and the common motifs of the subject? Research could take 15 minutes of reading the supplied materials and gathering up a handful of reference images, or it might take an entire day of getting lost down rabbit holes, as you discover a new topic, and find yourself quite interested in the learning process. How do you know when you're done research? I usually book half a day for research and image gathering. I'll know I'm done either when time's up or when I've found images for my entire list of keywords or until I'm just tired of researching. The next step is visual studies. For artists, studies are drawings done for practice or as an experiment. But in my process, studies have a more pointed purpose. In some of my classes, I call this observational or O mode sketching. It's a sketching me do before we start trying to come up with actual ideas. In O mode sketches, we go through our collected reference images and draw what we see. We're not coming up with ideas, just drawing what's on the page. We're not even necessarily trying to draw these well. It's often just enough to draw something quickly and badly, as long as this act causes us to see the subject more closely and to retain something of its form in our memory. I sometimes refer to this as downloading visual information to our brains. Later when we begin looking for ideas in the ideation stage, we'll have a repertoire of visual forms related to our subject, fresh in our memory. This makes it far easier to come up with ideas at that time. Meanwhile, in this stage, the pressure is off, but at the same time we have this sense that we're making progress by doing actual work, and this sense of progress is huge in preventing us from feeling stuck. For O mode sketches or studies, I just go through as many of my reference images as possible. I try not to think too hard about it. As you learn this skill and do it a few times, you get better at choosing images in your initial research and image gathering and get a feeling for which ones you need to pay the most attention to in your studies. When you feel like you've packed your brain with enough visual information or you've run out of time, it's time to move on to the next stage, ideation. I usually set a time limit for visual studies from one hour to half a day, depending on how much I feel that I need. Rule. Do not share O mode sketches with your client. These sketches are for you alone. While you might actually like how they look and may end up using them in your ideational sketches in the next step, they're most likely just a stepping stone. At this stage, you might want to share them with the client to let them know you're on the job, especially if they ask. But if you show your client O mode sketches, the risk is that they'll respond to them as though you meant them as an actual concept. They might really like it and get stuck on them, which would make it harder for you to actually develop more interesting, unique ideas. Or on the other hand, they might think they're quite bad and worry, it's the best you can do. In either way, showing O mode sketches to the client comes with a risk of losing control of the creative process at this earlier stage. Wait until the end of the next stage, ideation, to show anything with your client. [MUSIC] 8. Stage 3: Ideation: [MUSIC] Now that you've warmed up from the understanding stage, you'll feel much more prepared for coming up with actual ideas, which is exactly what the ideation stage is for. Ideation is the process of coming up with actual solutions to the client's visual problem. For illustrators, that means coming up with concepts in the form of sketches. The ideation process starts with rough sketches and then goes into a process of selection and refining and ultimately presenting your best ones to the client. From here, the client will either approve the concept to go into finals or very likely they'll give you feedback or changes to incorporate in a revised sketch before moving forward. Of course, the whole process of coming up with ideas and presenting them to the client and especially working through feedback and revisions is a huge pinpoint for us. Since this class is ultimately about how to stay in control of the creative process so we can achieve the goals of the project, we'll be giving this aspect some more detailed attention. The ultimate goal of the ideation stage is to have a client-approved sketch for each illustration you're working on. If there's only one illustration, you want to have one approved sketch that you can transform into a finished piece in the next stage. If there are 10 illustrations, you should have 10 approved sketches and so on. The steps in this process include rough sketches, refined sketches, the presentation, and feedback and revisions. The moment we start our rough sketches, we're faced with the blank page. Had we tried to start here without going through the understanding stage, especially the studies, this might have been a lot more intimidating. But having primed our imaginations with some visual information already, we probably have something in our minds to start with. If you want to go deeper in how I approach rough sketches, I show you this in my Drawing Toward Illustration class. Sometimes a client will have something in mind that they want you to illustrate, sometimes they'll even give you their own sketch at least as a starting point, other times the client funds to leave the ideas completely up to you. In the following two examples, we'll go through what each situation might look like. Often an art director will have a concept in mind for you to work with. While it may seem like this makes your job easier, it might actually make it harder since you might never have approached the visual problem in that way and so you spend a lot of time adapting your style and way of thinking to someone else's. So much of a part of one's style is not just what an illustration looks like, but the very ideas on which the illustration is based. Illustration is not just making pictures, it's the whole approach to getting there. Fortunately, in most cases, the sketch or concept given to you by the client is open to your interpretation; it's a starting point, your job is to find a way to interpret the client's starting point in your own way. Here's a tip. When the client gives you a starting point like this, it's still a very good idea to go through the full understanding stage, including research and mode sketching, before moving onto later stages of the process. When a client gives you a rough sketch, you might ask whether there's even a point in doing your own rough sketches. Of course, the answer is a resounding yes. In such a case, I would try at least two different approaches : One that follows a client sketch more closely and one that interprets the sketch more loosely in a way that is more natural or intuitive for you. I often would also want to try a third approach where I set aside the client's preconceived ideas and approach the problem in a completely new way. I would only do this if it seemed I could do so without contradicting the goals of the brief. In one example, a client came to me with a concept and sketches that had already been approved by their client, an automotive association that provides emergency roadside support to their members. This was an advertising agency and they were coming to me to execute their ideas in my style. Part of the job was custom lettering and the other part was illustrating some simple icons to support the text. The lettering would be pretty straightforward, it was the icon that felt more uncertain for me. They wanted me to depict a car battery, a flat tire, and a tow truck. In the roughs, I spent some time just trying to figure out how I would draw a car battery, a flat tire, and a tow truck. This would be Level 1 where I'm just redrawing what the client has already sketched. Here, I'm thinking about the qualities of my style. What character can I bring to these otherwise pretty straightforward objects? There can be a lot of room here for interpretation. The next level, let's call it Level 2, would be to take the ideas a step further. Now, I'm thinking more conceptually. What does the text say and what is the overall tone of the project and how can I integrate this more creatively in the illustration? In this example, the overall tone is Christmas-themed and the text plays on the idea of Christmas greeting cards in situations where one might need emergency roadside service. As I went along, I started to think about how to bring these two ideas together. For the battery, I landed on the idea of jumper cables as a string of Christmas lights, for the flat tire, I landed on the comical idea of the puncture being caused by driving over the glass ornament shards, for the third piece, I knew the client wanted to literally depict one of their recognizable branded tow trucks. It was just a matter of how to spin it a bit so that there was more of a concept to it. Here, I added a Rudolph costume with a red nose up front and the antlers tied to the top. In my roughs, I just played around with variations on these two things; the Level 1 and the Level 2 approaches with each piece. We'll look at how this developed in the next step, but first, let's look at when the concept is totally up to you. I much prefer not to be given a sketch for my client. As one fellow artist on Twitter put it, "Please don't send me a sketch, that's why you hired me, I make the pictures." Hopefully, I've shown you how you can still be creative when given a sketch. But now let's look at the challenge of working from a clean slate. In this example, the art director gave me a fairly simple and open brief. This article is about working from home during COVID. I looked for images that gave me a sense of what working from home looks like. In this case, it's people at home zooming on the computers, they are in a domestic environment, perhaps in a kitchen or a bedroom. I spent this rest stage just iterating on this simple idea and seeing where my imagination would go. In this rougher step, I'm just exploring and letting my hand and my mind wander. Sometimes my ideas come together in full here and I just need to refine them a little bit in the next step but other times things come in parts or an incomplete chunks. Very often, I don't think I have anything that great, so at a certain point, I have to stop, take a break and come back to it with a fresh mind, which could be after a snack break or even the next day. Rule. Do not share work in progress from your rough stage. When you present sketches to your client, your goal should be to nail your idea and get it approved by the client right away. If you present sketches you haven't fully resolved yourself, your client may feel the need to step in and resolve them for you, which I doubt either of you would want. Just as importantly, you don't want to pitch a concept that you can't actually develop in your medium and style? Well, it's good to leave some room for surprise between sketches and finals, you don't want to set the client up with expectations you will really struggle to deliver on. In the rough sketches step, you're mining for ideas, mining for those diamonds in the rough. But by the end of the rough sketches, you'll have found something even if they seem incomplete yet. In the refined stages, this is where you get a chance to shape up the sketch to something more specific. You may have had all neat ideas, but it's time to select the most viable ones. An idea is viable when it first, meets the objective of the brief, second, it promises to be something you can deliver in your style, and third, it's something you can easily describe. If you can't put it in words, you probably don't have an idea; other than that, you really just need to like the idea and have to live with it. Rule. If you don't want the client to choose your worst ideas, don't present them. We'll get more into this in the next step, the presentation. But a common complaint by illustrators is that the client always chooses their worst ideas. To me, this seems avoidable; don't present ideas you don't like. While you may have a favorite idea, you should be able to get behind all the ideas you present. If there are any ideas you wouldn't want to execute for whatever reason, you shouldn't include it. If that means presenting two concepts instead of three, then just present two. If it means you have no ideas, then you have more work to do at the rough stage yet. In such a case, ask yourself what's not working about your concept and then keep going. Rule. Do not present more than three options per illustration. Showing too many options makes it harder for your client to choose and it signals to them that you can't make up your own mind about what you think is the best way to go. Come in with a strong recommendation, be decisive. As hard as it may be, choose your best three concepts and let everything else go. In a month, you'll have forgotten about all those precious ideas anyway. Help your client decide by showing only your strongest ideas. Make it your job to decide which your strongest ideas are and not the clients. This is one major way to keep yourself in the creative driver's seat and keep the project from going off track. In the first example, the battery, tire, and tow truck pieces, my goal is to come up with at least a Level 1 and Level 2 take on their sketches, with Level 1 following their sketches more literally, and Level 2 bringing more of my own take to the table. I actually ended up with three directions to share with them. Here, to refine them enough for their feedback, I made sure they all had a similar level of finish to them. When working out ideas for a set of illustrations, the sketches should all be consistent to avoid questions of why one might look different from the other. I also made sure the lettering and my sketches all had a similar feeling to them, even though it was quite rough at this stage. That's what I focused on in my refined sketches here. I wanted as little variation in the quality of my sketches and as much variation in the distinct concepts I was presenting. When presenting multiple options, make each option as distinct as possible. In this way, you can avoid requests to mix and match, aka Frankenstein your sketches. This could really weaken your overall concept. Also showing different options with only minor differences, makes the decision more difficult for both you and your client. When each concept is as differentiated from the others as possible, their unique value is clear. If there is a small detail you're not sure to include or not, avoid the temptation to include it as an extra option. This would weaken your position as the creative leader. You should figure out that detail yourself. Just cut one of the variations out and know that if it's really that hard to decide, it probably makes no difference anyway. One notable aspect to this project was that I was working with an art director at an Ad agency and we were together working out creative, to present to their client. While I usually allow for three rounds of sketches, here, I have to allow for some back-and-forth between me and the art director first, because the creative team at the agency will want to vet my work before sending it off to their client. In this case, the first sketches I shared were a bit looser than I usually like because I needed to work out the overall concepts with them first, and concepts, need less refinement than content in composition. Once the art director came back with their internal feedback, I was able to refine the entire set of concepts even more, this time ready to be reviewed by their client. In the case of my sketches for my editorial client, once I selected my best options, I simply refine them by tracing over it and making it look as close to how I illustrate in my final style as possible. While many might approach sketches in a much quicker and looser way, I prefer to spend lots of time here. That's why I do rough sketches and refine them based on my own sense of what needs to get clear rather than presenting rougher sketches to my client and having to refine them based on their feedback. While feedback and revisions is often just part of the process, I like to streamline it as much as possible, and I think my clients appreciate not having to ask for too many changes. This is just a hunch. I tried to use my experience and intuition to anticipate what the client might say and fix these things myself. If I can't tell what the client will say, I'll just show them my best work and let the client's feedback give me more direction in the next round. While fussing over my refined sketches, in this way might seem to take up too much time, it saves more time in revision stages, and especially at the final art stage. Take your time to get it right in the sketches. In your finished art stage, will go much more smoothly. Work it out in the sketches, not in the finals. Whether you nail the sketches and the client approves without feedback, or they have lots of feedback for you to work out, it's always better to work out the work in the sketches, not in the finished execution. It's always easier to change things out in pencil than paint [NOISE]. So far we haven't met with the client since kickoff. Maybe we follow it up with a few additional questions at first, but we haven't shown them any work yet. Now with some refined sketches in hand, you're ready for your first client presentation, our first touch point since kickoff. Well, you may imagine a client presentation happens in real-time with you taking your client through your concepts, I recommend emailing your concepts instead, as this gives them time and space to formulate their response. This means you get more thoughtful feedback, rather than hot takes. In the Tools video earlier on, I alluded to the deck as being your most important tool for stepping your client through your creative process. Now that you have your sketch or sketches to share with your client, you're going to need that deck. Your deck is how you must present any and all work to your client. I'm surprised at how many illustrators still send their work as loose email attachments to their clients. If you're a new illustrator working for your first client, you can easily stand out head and shoulders by sharing your work in a deck. A good sketch presented in a deck could look far more valuable than an amazing sketch sent as a loose file attachment. Presenting in a deck, helps the illustrator stay in control of their process by doing the following: It makes it easier to keep track of versions since all sketches, especially when you're working on multiples, can be batched together, and labeled with a common version number. Presenting in a deck makes sure that your sketches and your descriptions always stay together. If you send loose sketches, they may be sent around without your descriptions or other important context setting information which could elicit irrelevant feedback. Presenting in a deck frames your sketch in the same way a frame can elevate any work of art even a scribble. Finally, it makes it more likely your client will spend enough time and care reviewing your work. The last thing I want, is for my work to be quickly skimmed on a little phone screen, and feedback given based on this less careful viewing. There's a greater risk that something will be missed and I'll have to deal with changes later in the process when they're more expensive to make. In the tools section, I quickly introduced what I call the deck, and in some of the examples above, we've seen the deck in action. Now I'd like to take a closer look. For anyone interested, I've included a basic deck template as a free download in the class projects and resources page. Returning to the example above for the editorial project, this is what my deck for that one looks like. The first page obviously is the cover and of course, you put things like client name, project description, presentation type, date, and version number. That version number is really important. You want to always have your version number on the cover. Then on the inside, on the first page, I've chosen to present one sketch per page since I only have one illustration I'm sharing concepts for. However, if I'm presenting multiple sketches for multiple illustrations, it's best to show all concepts for each illustration on its own page, so they're easy to view and compare for the client. When presenting sketches, you don't need much, just your sketches and some descriptive text to support them to make it clear what the client is looking at. Sketches should be clear and self-explanatory and not need additional text to make sense of them. The descriptive texts just helps reinforce your thinking a little bit. I'd say just keep it to one short paragraph, maybe a couple of 100 characters or less. Now in the last page, I'd like to show actionable steps for the client, so they know how to respond to the work, and what I'm expecting from them in the way of feedback. If you're using InDesign, export your deck as a PDF and upload it to the Cloud and from there you can copy a shareable link. Next, write your email, include the link, and send it off to the client. You can write your emails anyway you want, but I recommend keeping the email short, and to the point. Here's an example of what I might send. ''Hi Ashley, thanks so much for your patience as I put these sketches together. Here's a link to the sketches'', and then of course I paste that URL to my file on the Cloud, and then I just close up and say, ''Please have a look, let me know which concept you'd like to go with.'' Once approved, we can move into the final artwork. First with the subject line. It's a new subject, specific to the sketches stage, and I've clearly labeled it as sketches. Next, I acknowledged the client with a thankful greeting. Next, I share the presentation link right away. Then finally, I give a quick actionable promise. If the client chooses and approves the sketch, they can start seeing the illustration sooner. Then I sign off. Never express doubt in your work. What I want to point out, especially is the fact that I don't express any doubt or apologies for my work, even if I'm a little bit uncertain. There's always room for uncertainty and that's why we present sketches and have revisions built into the process. However, my job the whole time has been to come up with good ideas and I wouldn't present to my client anything that I didn't think worked or at least mostly worked. If I'm presenting something, it must pass my own standards. If it passes my standards, I stand behind it. Therefore, I'm not sorry for it, and I want my client to go with my recommendation. For that reason, I never say things like, hopefully, this works for you or please let me know if you need any changes or extra explorations or something along those lines because that signals that I don't stand behind my work. It opens things up too much to doubt on the client's part. Also, if I prompt for feedback that may suggest to them that they should have feedback, even if they wouldn't have otherwise had any. While presenting work to your client, depending on what you and your client agreed on in the onboarding stage, for each illustration, you want your client to choose just one sketch to move into the next stage. If you're working on two spot illustrations for a magazine, you might show three options for each or six total sketches. Out of these, your client should be able to choose just one sketch per illustration. That's why when presenting different options, you want each one to be as distinct as possible. You want there to be a clear choice. Then, the client should be able to say, I like option B or whichever they choose. Then, you can focus on refining that in a second revision based on their feedback, or taking it into finals. As much as possible I try to avoid situations where I'm taking multiple concepts for the same illustration into next revisions. Once you've sent your first sketches to your client, it's now just a matter of time before they respond. Depending on your timeline, it could be within a few minutes, a few hours, or even a day or so after you send them. If your client doesn't respond right away, don't panic. A client taking longer with their response could just mean they're actually spending time with it, which is good. However, if you were expecting feedback by a certain time which passes, you can check in with a client and remind them that you'll need a certain minimum amount of time to turn around any changes. At this point suggesting the possibility of changes, maybe strategically beneficial. Otherwise, take a breather and enjoy the fact that for now, the work is out of your hands. Be clear about how you want the client to provide feedback. In the onboarding stage, I mentioned making sure that you let the client know how you prefer to receive feedback. All in one place, coming from one contact. If there's any doubt that your client has understood this, be sure to make it clear when you send your first sketches. This will prime you for getting feedback in its most helpful forum. Every time you send work to the client is an opportunity for them to weigh in on the work. You want to keep these exchanges as clean and as few as possible, and in each revision, to address all possible points of feedback. You want your client to understand that if they want to make the most of one of the included revision rounds, they should make sure they are thorough and clear in their response. [NOISE] After a certain time, you'll get that highly anticipated or much dreaded email back from your client. For me, it's always a little nerve wracking when this email drops in my inbox. Is it going to be a full approval without any changes or will the client hate everything and ask me to start again? Will there be tons of annoying changes? Will I feel like a winner or a loser? Of course, this is the wrong mindset. It's not about winning or losing. You've done your best and the client will respond how they respond. Take a deep breath and open the email. [NOISE] At this point, there are a few possible scenarios. The first scenario is that the client chooses a sketch and approves it to go into finals. The second scenario is that the client chooses a sketch but has feedback and would like to see some changes. This sometimes means they asked to see some combination of what you sense, some kind of a Frankenstein. The third scenario is less likely where they reject all your sketches and they want you to provide more options. Let's go through each of these scenarios one by one. In the most ideal scenario, your client says they love what you've shown them and if you've shown options, they choose one clear winner for you to take into the finals. In this case, you're good to go into the realization stage. Just makes sure that the client understands that first, they must approve the sketch in order to go into finals and second, once approved, there can be no going back and changing what was agreed in the sketch. I always communicate this point in the terms and conditions in the quote rather than bring it up at this age, which would probably be unfair to the client. Otherwise, congratulations, we'll see you in the next stage. The second scenario is when you get a little bit more feedback and some change requests. In this case, see your client's feedback as an overall acceptance of your ideas. Your idea is good enough for them to work with, and that's a good thing. Now it's just a matter of interpreting their feedback and this is where things can really come together or fall apart. There are no hard rules about what is and is not acceptable in terms of feedback. It really depends on what you consider to be your negotiable and non negotiable points, those things that you consider integral to both your art and the goals set out in the brief. Easier feedback from me will be more around content, what is being represented in the art, and how. Trickier feedback will be more around concept and composition. As a creative on the job, it can honestly be a little bit annoying to be given heavy-handed feedback about how you should solve the creative problem. When a client tells you to change something that alters the concept, perhaps even derails it, it can be really hard to accept. The same goes if they ask for changes that seem to break away from your style. My approach to feedback goes something like this. First, don't respond right away. Read it, and then give yourself time to let it digest. Reread it to make sure you completely understand. Second, don't be defensive. You might have all kinds of reasons why you disagree with the feedback or why do you think your solution is perfect. Your client is not wrong for responding the way they're responding anymore than they could be faulted for liking blue more than yellow. They feel the way they feel about the work and it's your job to help them feel better about it. Ask yourself, what is causing the client to respond in this way? What's causing them to give feedback in the way they gave it? Who's place is it to decide on this issue? Is it a matter of style or of content? Give your client as much say as you can in the way of content. If you presented a scene with four apples and two bananas, but they say they want four bananas and two apples, you should probably just make the switch. Another way I approach feedback is to prove them wrong. Of course, to myself. I find that by the time I've written out my defense against the client's feedback, I could've just gone along with it and moved on to the next thing. Now, I'll often just take some time to actually try what they've said. If they're wrong, it will look wrong and it wouldn't be something I would believe in enough to show them. Along the way I'll probably found out some way of addressing the problem in my own way, which works better. If they were right, then we should have no problem just making the change or presenting it in the next revision. Meanwhile, our client feels heard and the overall experience is a positive one since we avoided coming across as inflexible or difficult. Another tip here is to prepare your defense. If the client's feedback is truly hurting the goals and integrity of the work, you have two tools at your disposal to steer the client forward. You have the scope as outlined in both the brief and the quote and your style precedent. If the client feedback contradicts the scope in any way, you can always point to the brief or deliverables outlined in the scope. If the client feedback is clearly asking you to do something outside of what you do while it's not written into the brief, you hopefully had some understanding in the onboarding stage about style. For example, if the client is asking to redraw a concept with more of a 3D perspective, but your style is more flat and stylized, it would be fair for you to point this out. While we should always be up for a creative challenge, like in this case, how could you give a sense of three dimensions without breaking your flat stylistic constraints, we should not be expected to be someone we're not, or force our art to be something that it's not. Another tip here is to interpret. Read between the lines. Often a client is asking for something using imprecise words. They don't speak the exact language you do about your work, so they may talk about representing something in three-quarter perspective, but not mean it as literally as it sounds. This is exactly what happened to me recently. I made a point of clarifying. Just to be sure, I said, ''When you're talking about three-quarter perspective, you don't mean for me to illustrate in a three-dimensional way, do you?'' And they completely agreed. Don't be afraid to ask for clarifications from the client. If you feel unsure or that the client is asking for too much, it could be very helpful to jump on an actual voice or video call with them and just listen to them describe their feedback or change requests. Usually they want you to make the change in your own way, but not being you, they're not going to be able to tell you exactly how. Another tip here is to guide them toward specificity. If the client gives any feedback that's negative but doesn't say why it's not working, it's not your job to read their mind. Press them to be more specific. I'll get more into this in my next point. When the client is being clear about what they want, even if it's annoying at first, at least they're telling you what the problem is. The most problematic feedback is when the client says, I don't like it or that's not working for me. Remembering that illustration is visual problem-solving and must respond to the client's needs as set-up in the brief, you do need to turn it back on your client to be more specific. You can ask your client, what is it about the concept, content, or composition that's not working. Later, in the final stage for instance, a client might say, ''That color is not working. Could you try something different?'' This is an opportunity for you to ask the client, what is it about this color that's not working. Do you have any examples of colors that you would prefer, are there any colors that I should be avoiding altogether? While we'll get more into issues of color more in the next stage, this is just an easy example of something a client might comment on but not provide any truly helpful direction to go by. You don't want to just throw things up on the wall and see what sticks. Get specific about the feedback. It's not our job to read minds. It's your job to lead your client to more clarity about what they want and need. This happens only by pressing them more for specificity. Clients are not our patrons and we're not mere artists trying to satisfy their whims. We're creative collaborators with them and so it's not our job to simply keep showing them new options and hoping something sticks. The only way we can truly meet the objectives set out in the brief is if our client participates in our process by giving us clear feedback when something isn't working for them. Expect specificity. Don't try to read minds. Don't throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Ask the client to give you as specific feedback as they can so you can make the necessary corrections in the next revision. Now we're going to look the third scenario, requests for more options. Sometimes we just completely miss the target. It happens sometimes, especially early in our careers. That's what revisions are for. In your quote, hopefully you included at least three rounds of sketches or revisions. If you provided some sketches but the client chooses none, here's what you can do. Again, ask the client to be specific. What is it about what you presented them that isn't working? Ask yourself, do you agree with your feedback? Maybe you could take another stab at it or do you think you actually solved the problem giving the brief and giving your style and strengths and the client is just being overly picky. Another thing you can ask yourself is how far along in the process are you? If you're at the first presentation v1, then you probably have enough time to go back to the drawing board for one or two more concepts. It's usually better to be accommodating if at all possible. However, if you're at v2 or even v3, provided you believe your work holds up, but the client is just being picky, you can let the client know that you're approaching the limit of your included revisions. I remember one time I presented multiple concepts to a magazine client. They had some reasonable feedback, but also asked for additional sketches that showed my concepts in different angles. I had provided some of these angles in other options, so I felt that I'd already provided satisfactory alternatives to choose from. At this point we were at version 2. I mentioned that I tried incorporating their feedback, but it didn't work and that I would have to create a fourth option, which would be outside of the maximum options included in the quote. The art director came back a couple of days later agreeing that I had already given them some good options and these satisfy their requests and they agreed to go on with one of the sketches I provided. [NOISE] Your deck is a tool not only for presenting your work but for tracking revisions. Once you're done making your first revisions to your sketches, save a new version of your deck as version 2, and place the updated sketches into the document. Remove all the pages or instances of the sketches that didn't make the cut. Show only the work that's changed between versions. If the client has approved a sketch for one illustration in a series of two but not the other, you can leave the first out in this next round. Save the file, export to a new PDF and send via the Cloud just as we did for the first presentation. To be organized, I always update the subject line. If my first subject line was The Cult of Crypto Sketches, my new line would be The Cult of Crypto Sketches version 2. Here I'd like to point out that I didn't put v1 in the first subject line. That's deliberate to again avoid suggesting doubt or the suggestion of any changes. This is possibly a little bit neurotic and a bit like knocking on wood, but it gives me hope. For any additional rounds of changes, remember to save a new version of the deck, include only the change sketches, and update the version number sequentially, v3, v4, and so on. [MUSIC] 9. Stage 4: Realization: Now it's time to take your proof sketch or sketches into finished art. This is what I call the realization stage, where you make real what was only an idea in your sketches. You take the approved sketches and transform them into finished artwork. I actually have the least to say on this step because this is your area of expertise. You might be an oil painter or a collage artist, or you might work in some newfangled technology that may or may not have been invented by the time you take this class. Whatever it is, you know your way around it and that's why your client came to you. This is your art. Now, it's your turn to do what you do. The ultimate goal of this stage is a well-crafted illustration approved by your client and ready to hit the streets. The steps to getting there include; creating the finished artwork, presenting it to your client and the feedback and revisions. In my own process, finished artwork is easier than the sketches. Because I have my style, tools and techniques pretty buttoned down, once I have an approved sketch, I know what to do next. I can crank some music or binge listen to a podcast and just enjoy this less cerebral part of the process. That's not to say I don't struggle at this stage. There's always some new challenge I didn't expect and I might have to spend more time than expected working it out. Maybe I included chickens in my sketch, which looked fine but once I go into finals, I realize that I never had to illustrate feathers before so I might spend some time trying to figure out how feathers look in my style. Sometimes, I'll even complete an entire illustration only to find it's not working yet and I will re-illustrate the whole thing. The second time, I have more clarity about where I'm headed and can be more decisive and less tentative in my execution. When you have a style or an established way of working, you have a baseline for what passes as good and what doesn't. You can work all this out on your own. This is more true for illustrators who have a more developed way of working and a sense of what their style is. Things are different when you're more at the beginning because you're in the process of developing these things. You're learning on the job. Rather than being discouraged here, you should take some comfort in this fact. Well, it's hard working on a deadline and struggling to feel good about your work at this stage. Hopefully, it helps knowing that this is normal and does not mean you're a terrible Illustrator. It just means you're in that gap between knowing what you want to do and learning how to do it. When I was just starting out, it would've been nice to know exactly what I would struggle with. At least I wouldn't feel like a complete failure. I think it would have also helped me to know what to focus on in terms of learning and development. While struggle and doubt are just part of the learning process, hopefully by sharing this with you, you'll struggle with more purpose. Here are some things that you might struggle with at the beginning but which will get easier as you grow. The first pain point is making your final illustrations look as good as your sketches. One of the biggest pin points for illustrators is that they find their sketches look great but they turn out worse than they hoped when they're fleshed out in the final illustration. I think this problem is largely one of not knowing your style, which includes not knowing how to bring your ideas together in the execution in a consistent way. In my drawing toward illustration class, one of my key points is that rather than trying to illustrate how you sketch, you need to learn how to sketch, how you illustrate. This also means knowing the difference between drawing and sketching. As illustrators, we don't draw pictures. There's usually some process of developing ideas into a sketch and then developing that sketch into a final illustration using our chosen tools and techniques. Dressing up a drawing with some digital or physical media technique usually results in an awkward looking piece of art. Instead, overtime we devise a way of stylizing in our final illustrations, especially in how we represent forums with shape and line. In this way, we develop a visual language. Then in our sketches, we use this visual language thinking not only about the idea of the illustration but also how it might come together in a more finished style. Color is another huge pin point for beginners and even for more established illustrators. Common questions about color include, how many colors should you use? Which ones work well together? How do you get the colors to harmonize properly and not compete with one another? What if the client doesn't like the colors we choose? Where it comes to working with color, it's always easier to work with fewer. When I started out, I mostly worked with two or three colors when it was up to me. I really didn't like adding extra colors because it added more complexity than I felt was necessary in my style and frankly, I wasn't very good at using more colors. Overtime, I got better working with a few more colors and I also realized I tended to gravitate around the same ones so I formalize these into a single palette that I use almost every time. Questions of color can be almost eliminated when you have a go-to color palette in this way. I teach about this in my class, the one pallet Illustrator so, if you're interested in learning more about how I resolve my own color problems, I think you'll appreciate that class. Another pin point for illustrators is questions of style, tools, and technique. This is part and parcel with the question of making your illustrations look as good as your sketches and it also overlaps with questions of color. It's about knowing what your finished illustrations look like, what line style or shape quality should you use. Do you represent things realistically or more abstractly? Do you show a sense of volume or keep things flat? Should you add many details or keep things super simple? Should you use Photoshop or Procreate or maybe Illustrator? All these questions plague the beginner because they haven't landed on a system that tells them the answers to these questions. For those who struggle with knowing what style to work in and which tools are best to work in, we explore that in another one of my classes, the style class. These pin points are not things you want to be figuring out when you're on the job, especially at this later stage of the process. However, if you're a beginner, this is pretty much what you'll be doing. It will be hard, but it doesn't mean you're bad or that your art will be bad. There are many pieces I made early on where I had to figure out so much that even today I'm still proud of. I encourage you to jump into each job you get, knowing it's the best opportunity you have in the moment. You'll figure it out as you go along and you'll get paid along the way. Now it's time to share the work with your client. This is the first time you'll be sharing something since the sketches stage. Just be sure that by the time you present your finished art to the client, it's actually finished. You should aim to present only work that you would consider completed. The purpose of this stage is not to check in with your client or to see if it's working. Any doubts about your work such as whether it's hitting all the right notes should as much as possible happen on your own time. When you come into the first presentation here, you're coming in to get it approved and out the door. That's your goal in terms of where you want your art to be at this point. It really should be that good. However, you can still expect some feedback in minor changes here. When presenting your finished artwork only show work that is fully complete. As much as you can help it don't share work in progress. Why might you want to show work in progress? Maybe you're uncertain about something and you want to see what the client thinks or maybe the client has asked to see something as a check in. In either case, this could derail the process. In the former case, it signals that you can't resolve your own work, which weakens your creative authority. In the latter case, it risks being prematurely judged. More practically, it breaks the clean feedback and revision rounds you built into the project. Protecting these is crucial to keeping the project manageable. If you show work in progress and the client starts weighing in early and then you make changes, does that count as a round? Showing work in progress is a surefire way to throw a project off track and make revision rounds unclear. Here's a tip. If the client requests to see the work as a check-in and you'd rather wait to show them something more finished, it's reasonable to say you're on the job but it's not ready to share yet. Assure your client that you'll be sharing something by the agreed on deadline. You can even be honest and say you're still figuring things out. Clients shouldn't be shocked to know that illustrators go through a process of uncertainty in their own work. What you probably don't want is a client weighing in with their own ideas of how to solve your creative problem. It does depend on the relationship you have with your client or art director but generally speaking, how you figure these things out is exactly your job and nobody else's. Fiercely protect that. Always present your final art in a deck. I said this before, but I have to say it again. Don't send your final art as loose leaf email attachments. While it may seem inconvenient to go through the whole deck thing, sending it in a deck does a few main things. First, as with sketches, it frames the work signifying that you value it. Second, it makes it more clear that you're expecting the client to thoughtfully review the work before approving. If you send just the file as a loose attachment, the client might think you think you're done. A deck keeps the artwork safely in the waiting for approval zone as it makes its way through the clients organizational maze. Well, we don't want to suggest that the client should have feedback. We also don't want to make it seem like we're shutting down any feedback should it be necessary. Sending work in a deck makes it easier for you to keep track of changes. You can place a big fat V2, V3, and so on, on the deck, making it very clear where you and the client are in the process. Never sent final files until the client has approved the artwork as seen in the deck. Artwork sent as loose attachments can also look like you're sending the final files. Sending final art in a deck ensures that the client can fully approve of it before you go through the whole trouble of preparing and sending the final cleaned up artwork. Fully approving the art means that no further changes are due. Once you move into the delivery stage and send final artwork, you are contractually protected from any further requests from the client to make changes. Presenting your work here is very similar to presenting sketches. You'll use your deck again, but just updating it for sharing finals instead of sketches. That means saving as a new copy, this time using finals instead of sketches in the name, resetting the version number to version 1, and of course, placing the finished illustration or illustrations into the layout. Usually this is a simple as swapping out the sketches for the finished art. Then I just remove the captions, I had written for the sketches. We won't be needing those anymore. When presenting illustrations, 95 percent of the time, you really don't need to explain anything. The work should be self-evident. Just as in sketches, I like to include next steps on the last page to give the client clear direction of what to do next. As with the sketches presentation, export your deck as a PDF and save it to the cloud and share the link with your client. Here's an example of what I typically send to my clients. Hi Ashley, I hope you're well. I'm pleased to share the final artwork with you. Here's a link to the deck, and of course I include the link. Once approved, I can start preparing them for final delivery. Looking forward to hearing back soon. The subject is of course updated to be about finals instead of sketches this time. For V1, I don't include the version number because I want to live in hope that there will be no more revisions. As with the others, the e-mail itself is short and sweet with a salutation and a sense of excitement about this stage. This is the first time the client will see the finals and you can imagine they're really eager to unwrap this gift. Keep in mind, I don't overly hype the work. It can be awkward for the client if they have some critical feedback, if I make it seem like I'm just over the moon about my own work. I try to balance being enthusiastic and modest. Again, I include clear direction about what the next step will be, which would just reinforce us what I have on the last page of the deck without suggesting doubt or that there should be any changes. I don't write something like, I hope you like it. It's more like, here it is, full-stop. Occasionally, I will leave the door open a crack and say, please let me know what you think. But it really depends on the nature of my relationship to the client and how much I think additional feedback at this stage will really help. Of course, how you word your emails and how open you want to be about things is a matter of what you're comfortable with. Same as the last time, I insist on sending the work by e-mail, thus giving the client time and space to formulate their thoughts on the work. There's nothing to explain, so you being there will add nothing to the presentation except to be there to hear the client give their hot takes. Once you send it off, you can take a breather while you wait for their feedback to roll in. We'll get into that next. Just as in sketches, you want the client to give you any feedback in one place and have it come from one contact. If you sense that the feedback is somehow incomplete or you have questions, be sure to ask, and get on the same page before turning around a second revision. There are a few possible scenarios with feedback on finals, just as there are with sketches. In the best possible scenario, your client just loves your work and has no changes. In this case, you're ready to take your art into the delivery stage where you can clean up the files and send them to the client. Well-done. Just a tip here. Just make sure the client knows that you'll need a bit of time to prepare the files in this way, it may take you an hour or may take you a day or more depending on how much of a mess you made and what you need to do to clean it up in the artwork file. I'd say give yourself at least half a day for this, just in case the process of cleaning up and sending takes longer than you expected. Of course, the second scenario is where you get some feedback and some requests for some changes. Be prepared for any manner of feedback here but mostly it will be around colors as well as placement and proportion of certain elements. There may be some comments also on details like patterns or how facial features are looking and little details like that, which weren't possible to know from the sketches. Sometimes there are also little errors like spelling mistakes or details you completely missed. Feedback on these things is very reasonable. Sometimes a client will have more difficult feedback that seems to question your judgment or style. Sometimes we're so close to our own work that it's hard to spot certain flaws. Allow yourself some space and time to consider whether their feedback is reasonable. Try it out for yourself before pushing back on it. See how you can accept the feedback and translate it in your own way. The work will probably be stronger and you'll come across as a stronger illustrator by being flexible. My approach to feedback on final art go something like this. First, carefully read the feedback, understand what the client thinks is working and not working. Next, make note of any feedback that is unclear to you. Next, make note of changes that are reasonable at this stage. If the client is asking for some small adjustments in size, proportion, or color, for instance, this is probably reasonable. However, if they've asked to add something completely new or make changes that significantly break from the approved sketch. This is not an adjustment, it's a complete redo. In such a case, I would explain to the client that you would have to go back into the sketches in order to work out their feedback. Often this goes outside the agreed scope and justifies asking for additional fees. As long as the client overall accepts the work and is just asking for a few changes, however, annoying or unexpected they may be, stay positive. They're working with your art, not rejecting it. Consider how far you've come in the process and whether just making the changes will get you to the finish line quicker and smoother. On the other hand, consider whether their feedback compromises the integrity of your art too much. Maybe it's worth the fight. If so, be sure to know your reasons for pushing back on the client, then explain respectfully, and kindly why such and such feedback will not work. For instance, if the critique is all about how you drew the eyes, but your work has eyes all drawn in that way. You can point this out and ask what they were expecting instead. When difficult feedback comes, it helps to ask your client in a non-confrontational, sincerely curious manner. In which way is this not working? Were are you expecting something else and if so, can you please describe it? Another big question is, why does a given change request matter to the client? You can ask that honestly without a tone of exasperation. By understanding why, you will have something more to work with, whether that means explaining how you've addressed her concern already or knowing how to address their concern in the next revision. Every time you get feedback is like a mini brief for the next revision. Just make sure you know exactly what you're correcting or addressing in each one. It's not your job to read minds or guess what might be the problem. It's your job to help the client define the problem and then for you to solve it with confidence. The third scenario, of course, is request for more explorations. At this point, you have an approved sketch and have fleshed it out in the final. If it meets the objectives set out in the brief and it's done with a professional level of craft, it should be considered acceptable. You may have to go through some minor revisions as explained earlier, but nothing major. However, sometimes a client may ask to see various sub options, like three or four color explorations of the same piece or a couple of options that show slight variations in details. Unless you've included extra explorations as part of your service in the quote, it would be reasonable to consider this as an add-on with an additional fee. If you provided your illustration in one coloring and the client doesn't like it, you can use the next round to try another. Now you have two color options for them to choose from. Most importantly, keep track of your revision rounds and make it clear when they get used up. If the client needs more changes than what you include, I typically include up to version 3, then you're entitled to charge them for this. Just be sure you let them know before you go into additional rounds so they have a chance to opt in or out. To help keep track, be sure to save each file according to its revision count and similarly to save as your deck with the appropriate version number, save the file, export to PDF and send via the cloud as usual. Be sure to update the subject line to V2 or V3 or wherever it is in the email. Projects can go off track when a client is being unreasonable, but sometimes it's due to our own inexperience or some other misstep on our part. We have to be honest about the root problem. If it's the client and if you believe you're holding up your end of the bargain, you're allowed to defend yourself. If you get to the end of your included revisions and the client keeps changing their mind, it may be time to call the client and have a conversation about how to move forward. We don't just solve visual problems. Sometimes we solve interpersonal and communication problems. Here the client out and hopefully they can hear you out. You may run out of revisions or time or both, or you may arrive at an impasse on some important aspect of the project. Other times the client just cancels the project. In such extreme or rare occasions, the project very well die die before it sees the light of day. As much as possible, it should be the client's choice to accept additional fees for revisions or to drop the project. Occasionally, though, it might be you who has to fire the client. Firing the client usually means you don't get paid in full. If it's you opting out of the project, then it's you who has to cut your losses knowing that it's for the better. Maybe the project started costing you way more in time than it was worth anyway. However, if the client ops out then you should still get paid for the work you did. Even if the project failed, you still provided value, and you still did work worthy of pay. This is where the kill fee comes in. If for whatever reason the project aborts, whether due to coming to an impasse or because the company changed their direction, you should still get paid for the work. A kill fee is usually a percentage of the total project budget with increasing amounts as the project advances. I usually require a 50 percent kill fee after sketches and 75 percent after presenting any finals. This assumes the client won't be using the work. The extra twenty-five percent is for the value they'll lose by not using it. It's certainly not a 25 percent discount. If I find the client has used the work in any way, then I would be entitled to send a bill for the extra 25 percent. For more information about pricing your work and setting a kill fee, please check out one of the resources in the class projects and resources, especially the Graphic Artists Guild guide. Once your client approves your finished artwork, you're done with this stage. In fact, you've done the entire illustration. Well almost, so far, you've been sharing all your work in your deck. Now your client is going to want to have the actual file or files to plug into their layout design or wherever they're going to be using it. Let's talk about that in the next stage, delivery. 10. Stage 5: Delivery: [MUSIC] Finally the illustrations are finalized and approved. The only thing left to do is prepare them for their final usage and send them off to the client. This stage is called delivery. Since the creative process can be messy, our digital files may be rather messy as well. Before we send them off to the client, we want to make sure they're nice and clean. Usually that means just saving down to a flat file where all the working layers are flattened so the file can't be easily changed. When the client needs a layered file. That means all layers are properly named and well-organized so they're as easy to use on the client side as possible. The goal of this stage is to ship the final files to the client. The steps of this stage include the file cleanup and delivering the file to the client. Let's go through clean up first. Cleaning up your files will look different depending on how you make your illustrations. The reason we want to clean up our files is to first make them easier to use for our clients, and second, to prevent any unauthorized changes to the artwork, whether intended or not. Cleaning up your files also reflects well on you as a professional. The first question to ask is, what kind of files are you supposed to deliver? Did you agree to sending the files with layers or just as flattened files? Providing layered files means the client needs to be able to isolate or move various elements of your illustration around. This is helpful when you're working with a designer who will want to be able to move things around a bit to accommodate type or other elements in the layout. It's also helpful when working with animators, which will make it easier for them to do their job. I work in Photoshop and when I'm in creative mode, I'm not thinking about how easy to use my layers might be to someone else. But now in this stage I try to organize everything logically. Just looking at a map I did here for Airbnb, this is a map of Prague I did for them and as you can see, I still have lots of layers in this file. This is the file I actually gave to the client, but each layer is very organized. I have organized layer groups, so I have the base map down here. I actually should have named that base map. Let's just make that correction right now. Then I have all the icons in a layer group. I have all the icon labels in a layer group. Then I have all these numbered circles, these little index numbers, those you can take on or off, make visible or invisible in the layout and stuff like that and each layer is movable if needs be, I put them in place where they should go. But if for whatever reason the client needs to move it or even just use it in a separate case somewhere else. It's easy to isolate and move around a little bit. The idea of flattening maybe different depending on your tools. In Photoshop, you can actually just use layer flattened image from the menu. In Illustrator, there's a flattened artwork function as well. In Procreate, you can actually flatten your layers by pinching them altogether with your fingers in the layer panel. Whether you flatten your file or provide layers, be sure to also give the file a helpful name and add underscore flat for a flat file or underscore layers, whichever is correct to the end of the filename. Be sure not to overwrite your actual working art file in case you need to go in and make changes later because that is always a possibility. You might need to actually make changes and you don't want to go back and everything's flattened. Now moving on to delivery, once you flatten your files, it's time to send them to the client. Maybe you're thinking that now you can send files as attachments in email, but I'm sorry to say you shouldn't. Artwork files maybe smaller like five megabytes, but they may also be really big like 500 megabytes or more. It's best practice to always save your files to the cloud and share the download link instead. If it's just one file, you can probably just upload the file as is and send the link. If it's multiple files, you should stuff them in a zip file first and upload that and then send a link to that single zip file. You might be asking, when do you send your final files? Do you send them before or after the client pays? It's actually common to send the artwork files before sending your client the final invoice. My go-to move is to send the files to the client using a similarly short and sweet style of email like we've seen elsewhere in this class. Here's an example of what I write. Hi Ashley, Thank you so much for inviting me to work on this project. You can download the final files at this link, and of course I supply the link. Please be sure to download the files on your end right away as I regularly remove older files to make room for new ones on my Dropbox. I'm super pleased with how things turned out and I can't wait to see them in the wild. Please let me know when and where I can find them once they launch. Just out of curiosity, when is the earliest I can share the work on my social media and portfolio? I'll follow up with your invoice shortly. Thanks. Dom. It's always up to you how you word your emails. But the idea here is that I'm clearly sending the final artwork now and this concludes the project on my end. I'm also sure to remind them to download their files for safekeeping. It's more common than you think for clients to request the files a month or so later. Even though they had a rush deadline for use, sometimes they don't get around to actually using them on their end for awhile. Next, I really want to know when I can see the illustrations in the final context and when I can share the work. I make a point of asking, sometimes I even ask for copies such as if the work is for a magazine or some other printed context. Lastly, I make it clear that the invoice will be coming very soon in a separate email. Once you send the files, it's time to officially close the project. That includes invoicing and getting paid. Let's move on to the next stage and talk about it. [MUSIC] 11. Stage 6: Closing: [MUSIC] You might think that once you send the illustration files, the process is over. Well, this is mostly true. Unless you get paid for your work, it's only a hobby. You can think of the onboarding and closing stages as the more business-oriented bookends of the rest of the creative process. Closing is the process of wrapping up a project. At this point you can call the job done, except you want to make sure you get paid. This is also a time to thank the client and celebrate a job well done. Both we and our clients are human and this is a time to make the whole thing feel less transactional and more relational. If you've done your job well and upheld yourself as a professional, your client will have good feelings about working with you, and quite frankly they'll be far less likely to skip out on paying you. Finally, closing also includes the process of archiving the work. The goal of this stage is to get paid and formally close the project. The steps of this stage include: invoicing, receiving payment, and archiving the project. Now let's go through the steps. The first step is invoicing. Just as you open the project with a quote, you will now close it with an invoice. The quote and invoice are in some ways very similar. Often the invoice is just a modified quote. In fact in a building app like Harvest, you can create an invoice from a quote. As mentioned in the last stage, I think it's a good idea to send the files to the client and then invoice next. To me this honors a trustee built up with the client through the process, and makes it clear that you value the client and the work more than just getting paid. That being said if the client has lost your trust during the process, it might be wise to invoice them first and request payment before they can receive the files. The problem with this is very often the client needs the files right away, so holding them hostage could be seen as hostile and only make things worse. In the most extreme situation however this is exactly the pressure you need to motivate the naughty client, but I would say only resort to desperate measures in a truly desperate situation. Looking at my invoice it looks just like the quote we did at the beginning of the class in the onboarding stage. It is an invoice now, it just says invoice instead of quote. Even the line item is exactly the same. The only thing that's different is what's on the bottom. At the bottom here, I just have some notes. I'll talk about how I'd like to be paid and I mentioned that there is one-and-a-half percent monthly service charge for late payments and stuff like that. I also include my tax number which is important for some clients, they need that kind of information. In all honesty I rarely get paid by the due date in my invoices. Many larger companies have slow moving Finance Departments, and I consider it normal to receive payments 2-3 months down the road. It's not ideal but I'm used to it at this point, and I can plan for it. Even still I allow the billing software to send payment overdue notices every week starting the week after it's due. Is that annoying? Probably. Ironically, the clients most likely to pay you right away are smaller businesses or private individuals, since there are fewer go-betweens in getting you paid. If you become concerned that payment is far overdue and automatic emails aren't getting results, [NOISE] here's a good cause of action. Please note this is not legal advice, just my own sense of what seems reasonable. First, email the client directly about it in a non accusatory way. Make it something along the lines of if there's anything I can do to help make the payment easier, please let me know. Next each month you can send an updated invoice with the late payment fee added. If $1,000 was due on January 18th and you add 1.5 percent late fee per month, then you'll be sending a new invoice for 1,015. The problem with this is that if the client wasn't going to pay you anyway, they're not necessarily going to be motivated to pay you even more. For larger jobs late fees may start to look scary enough to get them moving. If the client still puts you off or ghosts you, follow up with a phone call. Hearing your voice or knowing you call the office could be enough for them to feel bad enough to pay. Perhaps maybe try calling before charging late fees. If the client still gives you that run around; there is one desperate option, social media shaming. I'm not advising you to do this, but I will tell you a story of how it worked for me. A client failed to pay me for the better part of a year and they ignored every email I sent and I was unable to reach them by phone. I wondered if I was the only one, so I looked the company name up along with search terms about paying freelancers and late payments for freelancers. Sure enough, the company had a bad reputation among writers who contributed to the magazine, giving them the same treatment I was experiencing. Knowing I wasn't the only one, I felt empowered to turn to Twitter and name and shame them. I tweeted a screen grab of how many days late the invoice was showing in my billing software and I included a link to an online thread from writers who had similar complaints, and I directly mentioned the magazine using their Twitter handle. Within moments they DMed me promising payment and requesting that I take down my tweet. A week later I received a check in the mail. If all those fails you can take legal request. I've come close to taking legal action, but that was only once and the value of the project was too small to justify the effort and expense. If a client owes you a significant amount and ghosts you, it may be worth considering legal action. [NOISE] Rule. Always let the client know when you receive their payment. Fortunately, clients that won't pay are rare. Most of the time you'll get paid. As soon as you receive the check or see payment come through online in your bank, be sure to mark the invoices paid and send your client one last email to confirm receipt and thank them for payment. Some of my clients will pay by wire or directly to my bank account, in which case I won't know unless I check my bank balance myself. Make a point of checking your balances weekly to make sure you can confirm receipt and mark the invoices paid in full. [NOISE] As you continue to work on new projects, you'll accumulate project folders on your hard drive. Over time, you'll have hundreds of these. After a while they'll be taking up much needed space on your computer, but of course you don't want to permanently delete them just to make space. It's not likely you'll need every project folder you've ever created, but you will require some. Which ones exactly? You'll never know, so you have to keep them all and that's why you archive them. Everyone has their own archival system, but here's mine. On my Mac, I have two parent folders called Active and Archive. The Active folder contains only projects that are currently open. The Archive folder contains any projects I've recently archived. When I close a project, I simply drag it into the Archive folder. I've just completed my project for crypto today, everything's done, I got paid. I can just drag that into my Archive folder, it's out of the way for now. These files are still on my computer, but at least I can easily get it out of my Active folder. I like being able to see at a glance what's on my plate by looking at the Active folder. More occasionally I move projects from my Archive folder onto an external hard drive, which serves as my permanent archive of work. My low-tech system is just by two terabyte external drives every two years, and use them as redundant or duplicate backup drives. I do this because I'd rather spend a couple of $100 on hard drives every two years than to get hooked into pricey high-capacity Cloud Storage. You can archive any way you want, but you do need to keep a copy of your projects for at least 5-10 years just in case you need to go back to find a file for you or your clients purposes. By always using the same filing system, you'll always be able to find any file for any project without too much trouble. [NOISE] Rule. Backup your hard drive every day. I would take this as an opportunity to remind you to actively keep a backup of your computer hard drive as well. Mac users have no excuse with time machine able to run in the background. **** happens and you want to be prepared when it does. [FOREIGN], luck favors the prepared. I rotate between two backup drives and store each one in a separate location. If I were to be robbed and find my computer gone the machine is valuable, but probably not as valuable as my archives and all my other files that were on it. Always keep a backup. When a project is done I feel free to move that project folder from my Active to my Archive folder, then I wait to get paid. It almost always comes, payment always comes. It's so rare that I don't get paid that I spend almost no time worrying about it. If a payment is longer than say three months overdue, that's when I feel like I need to check in. [APPLAUSE] When you're totally [MUSIC] done with the project and it's invoiced, paid, and archived, you should be very satisfied. Well done. Once you've gone through this process once or twice, the progression of stages should feel natural and you'll have a better sense of how your own creative process fits into it and what personal adaptations you should make. If you're ever lost, just pause and ask where are you in the process and use that to guide your next move. Just do whatever that stage requires and then move on to the next. Being a professional illustrator really is about consistency. Consistency not only in your style, but in how you step through your creative process and how you walk your clients through it along the way. Consistency makes everything more predictable. You'll know what to expect each time, and you'll know what steps you need to make. You can even predict which struggles you'll encounter at each stage, and that will make them seem less scary and more conquerable. It will also make it easier to know how long you need to work and thus setup more realistic, comfortable timelines. Next time when a client says, "Are you interested and available?" You have so much more certainty of how to answer this question. [MUSIC] 12. Project: Know Your Art: [MUSIC] Earlier in the class we talked about how knowing your art is the foundation of everything else you'll do as an illustrator. For the class project, I'd like to lead you through a series of guided questions to help you better define what this means for you. Here's how to do this part. In the class resources section, I've included a series of guided questions as a downloadable document. Using a notebook or typing directly into your class project, go through the questions and write down your answers. Feel free to supplement your written answers with supporting visuals and examples, perhaps some of your illustrations or images that inspire you. When you're done, share your notes with the class. I encourage you to share some of your notes to your Instagram, perhaps as opposed or a series of stories or reels. You can use the hashtag, six stages of illustration and tag me at Mr. Tom Froese so I and everyone else can more easily find your posts. Take as long as you need to go through these questions and happy reflecting. I look forward to reading what knowing your art means for you. Thank you so much for sharing and thank you so much for taking this class. Please be sure to let me know how this class helped you in the reviews. I'll see you in the next one [MUSIC]